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How to Spot Masonry Damage from Harsh Winter and Spring Seasons

Chimney Masonry Damage - VA Chimney SweepIf you experienced a grueling winter and/or a rainy spring, just imagine what your chimney has been going through and the chimney damage that may have occurred. Homeowners often think of chimneys as somewhat indestructible architectural features, but chimney masonry is extremely vulnerable to the elements. Water is the biggest enemy, and it can enter the venting system in a variety of ways, causing chimney damage.

It can take a while for the damage to become apparent, which is one reason annual chimney inspections are essential. Chimney experts, like the certified professionals at Chimney Saver Solutions, can identify signs of damage that a layperson may not see. Since neglecting moisture problems leads to worse and worse deterioration, the sooner a damaged chimney is repaired, the less money it will cost. The following are some tips that can help you spot masonry damage that may have occurred during the past winter or spring.

Discolored or Stained Chimney Masonry

Homeowners are often frustrated to see that white, brown, red, black, or green staining has developed on the exterior walls of their chimney. What they often don’t realize is that the staining is an indication that there could be chimney damage needing to be addressed. More information follows:

  • Efflorescence is usually white staining, though it is sometimes other colors. Efflorescence is a clear indication that there is excess moisture in your chimney that can cause accelerated deterioration.
  • Red, brown, and/or orange stains could mean a metal chimney component is rusting and in need of repair or replacement.
  • Brown or black stains that look like soot usually indicate that excessive creosote has built up in the flue. A chimney cleaning is needed.
  • Green stains mean mildew or mold are growing on and around the chimney, probably due to excess moisture and/or minimal sunlight.

Cracked, Broken, or Chipped Masonry

If your masonry chimney or fireplace box has large cracks, missing bricks, or crumbling bricks, there is a moisture problem. Bricks are naturally porous.

Chimney Masonry Damage Various chimney components protect moisture from getting in, such as the chimney crown, mortar, and chimney cap. When those components deteriorate, however, water intrusion occurs, followed by chimney damage.

A common issue homeowners deal with is cracked or missing mortar, though mortar usually lasts about 25 years. Eventually, the mortar needs to be replaced. A process called “tuckpointing” provides a cost-effective approach to replacing outdated mortar and restoring the structural integrity of the chimney. If the mortar isn’t replaced, what happens is that water gets in between the masonry bricks. During freezing and thawing cycles, water expands and contracts. The result is that the face of bricks eventually start popping and breaking off. You can see often see piles of broken brick around the chimney or on the ground below, when this happens. Without repairs, deterioration will continue until the chimney leans or collapses completely.